First Holiday of the Year: A Long Weekend on the Isle of Wight

Just before the big reopening on 17th May, I hopped on the ferry at Portsmouth to go over to the Isle of Wight for my first weekend away of the year. I enjoyed a 3 night stay in a self-catering cottage just outside Yarmouth.

As I drove down the M3 in pouring rain with fog and hazard lights on, the possibility of a visit to the beach seemed remote. Saturday lunchtime was spent in Portsmouth, as light rain and wind made it feel quite cold outside. That same afternoon I was cycling in bright sunshine – from Yarmouth to Colwell Bay. I was lucky with the weather over the course of the weekend!

Yarmouth itself seemed like a pleasant enough small town, by the sea with a nice harbour and a small shop where I got my supplies so I could cook for myself during my stay on the island.

On Saturday I started off with a visit to the Needles – I’d actually been aiming for Freshwater Bay but took a wrong turn. The Needles has a good selection of tourist shops, attractions for all the family, a viewpoint to see the lighthouse, and a chairlift down to Alum Bay beach. It was windy so not really a morning to sit on the beach, but I did a bit of shopping to get some gifts for friends & family. I enjoyed visiting the glass factory and the sand shop.

In the afternoon I got in the car and headed to the other side of the island, to take a ride on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The steam train leaves Havenstreet and journeys to Smallbrook and Wooton before returning to Havenstreet. At each stop you can get off the train for 5-10 minutes (watch the train change ends) and take some photos.

My first class carriage – which I had completely to myself – was very comfortable – Much better than any London trains I’ve been on and the pace of travel was more pleasant. Bring back steam trains! What an enjoyable way to travel!

I prebooked my train ticket online the day before – and just 10 minutes after I’d booked the ticket the railway appeared on TV during an Isle of Wight edition of Michael Portillo’s Railway Journeys!

My journey on the railway reminded me that train travel can be fun sometimes – Perhaps I should do some Michael Portillo style train journeys in the UK this Summer!??

On Monday historic sites around the island were the theme.

After sitting outside for my breakfast (a lot of fun) I drove to Freshwater Bay where I sat on the beach reading for a couple of hours. I’m reading Captian Corelli’s Mandolin at the moment – I’ve seen the film but never read the original book (shocking)!

Next it was on to Carisbrooke Castle, which also provided a convenient stop for lunch. I enjoyed seeing the donkeys in the yard! Walking the castle wall gave great views of the surrounding area.

Then Osbourne House – the private residence of Queen Victoria. This was the first day that going indoors was allowed – the inside was impressive – but it was the gardens I particularly enjoyed.

Before returning for dinner I drove to Shanklin and sat reading on the beach in the Sunshine – very enjoyable. The sound of the sea is so relaxing!

Tuesday was my journey home but not before saying hello to a new friend – some horses were in the field near where I was staying – and then time spent reading in the sunshine at Freshwater Bay again.

Then I drove back to Fishbourne to catch the Portsmouth ferry and had lunch on the beach in Portsmouth before making my way back up the M3, A34, M4 and A419 to Gloucestershire.

Covid permitting, it is my intention to go away to the coast once a month (even if just for one night at a weekend) – the sound of the sea is brilliant and makes me feel very happy!

I’ll pick a different county each month – so perhaps Sussex for my next trip?


Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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